As it’s no hidden fact that I love musicals, I decided to compile another countdown list, this time of the Musical movies you must-see!
- Mamma Mia! (2008) – Amazingly, I only discovered this film within the last few years, because for ages I had been swayed into avoiding it due to many critical reviews, but eventually my friend persuaded me otherwise… now I have to eat my words as I’m completely obsessed and I could watch it endlessly. A summer in Greece, with the music of Abba and a story filled with Romance, Comedy & Drama: what’s not to love?! (Bonus points for the fact it’s just as fun and energetic on stage- as you can see in this review).
- Anything Disney (Various) – I’m aware this covers such a broad spectrum, but every Disney Musical or Disney film with music is brilliant to me. Those that stand-out in particular are: Into The Woods, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Beauty & The Beast, The Little Mermaid, Frozen, Mulan and Aladdin, but there are so many great songs associated with Disney. I’ve always loved the magic of Disney films and the songs always heighten that emotion and magic for all ages.
- Hairspray (2007) – I originally saw this about a year or two after it’s release, I was swayed because at the time I was a fanatic of the High School Musical franchise and was keen to see Zac Efron in another teen-orientated film, but I’ve loved it ever since. There’s something so fun and energetic about it, but at the same time, it touches on a really important subject in history; of the movement of segregation and inequality. I still hope to catch it on stage at some point.
- Grease (1978) – Surely everyone has already seen this film? If you haven’t, where have you been?! This is probably one of the first musicals I saw (aside from Disney), and it’s a classic. A musical love story, set in a 70s American High School, that everyone adores. (Also, Danny and Sandy were the original “relationship goals” right?).
- Chicago (2002) – I discovered this for the first time last year. At first I was slightly puzzled, as the storyline is a little wild at times. However, the more I listened to the soundtrack and upon a second watch I realised how brilliant it was. In simple terms, it’s about a group of female murderers at risk of facing death row, so it shows their pursuit in avoiding it. The songs are jazz-style and composed by Danny Elfman, and the cast and cinematic pairing make for a visual treat.
- RENT (2005) – This was another one which I also only found out about last year, which initially I was confused with, but again understood more about upon listening to the soundtrack and watching a second time. However, I believe this is one of the most iconic musicals, as it was such a brave and cutting-edge move in the industry at that time, as it was one of the earlier musicals to touch on real-life issues and health. In simple terms, it depicts a story of a group of young people from all walks of life (including LGBT+) dealing with poverty and the AIDs epidemic in 80s/90s New York. Not only that, creator Jonathan Larson, who loosely based it on elements of his life, unfortunately passed the day after the first preview off-Broadway, so he never lived to see it go to Broadway and the impact it had on modern musicals.
- Charlie/Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (2005/1971) – If like me, Roahl Dahl was a huge part of your childhood then you’ve probably already seen at least one version (if not both) of the films. I have put both versions here, as I honestly love both, and the songs and elements of the story/visuals are different in each. For me, the modernised Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (2005) probably has the edge, as it was released in my childhood and I enjoyed the visuals a lot more. But the story is timeless, and I’ll always love it. (It’s another one that’s super fun on stage too!)
- Les Miserables (2012) – I knew this was one of the biggest musicals of the West End/Broadway, so I was keen to see why. I know this film gets mixed reviews based on the fact the stage show is such high standard, but I think people have to remember that they are different mediums and that films can be much more accessible than the theatre can. However, I thought the film was stunning. Although the plot was very complex and required concentration, I was rather surprised at how much I enjoyed it and I’m excited to be seeing it on the West End in a weeks time!
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) – I decided to watch this around Halloween last year, and I didn’t expect to like it as I thought it would be horribly gory (especially being an 18!) but I was wrong. I really loved it, because while the story was dark and gruesome, I thought it came across brilliantly as the blood was very theatrical so it took the edge off the shock. I thought the combination of Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter as Sweeney and Lovett worked a treat. I fell in love with the score too, I really enjoy Sondheim’s work. If you can face the frightful world of Sweeney Todd, this is definitely a great musical filled with stunning visuals.
- The Phantom of the Opera (2004) – Similar to Les Mis, I knew it was one of the most popular and longest running musicals, so I was again keen to see why. I know that this film also gets mixed reviews due to comparison of the stage show, but the same goes for what I said about Les Mis. I must admit, the musical style didn’t have much appeal to my personal tastes and I didn’t enjoy as many of the songs as I normally would in a musical, but aside from this, I really enjoyed the story. I realised it was a lot more dramatic and complex than I expected, and I personally think the story came across well in the film. I can imagine it being very visually stunning on stage too though, so I hope I get a chance to see it at some point.
There, that’s my list! What’s your favourite musical film? Does it differ to your favourite stage show? What do you think I’ve missed? Let me know below!